A well-studied expert on measurement and evaluation, Jack Phillips is responsible for developing the ROI Methodology, which is a process that produces bottom-line figures and accountability for learning, performance improvement, human resources, technology, and public policy programs. He regularly consults for Fortune 500 companies and major global organizations in more than 50 countries.
Phillips has authored or edited more than 50 books, the most recent being Measuring for Success: What CEOs Really Think About Learning Investments (ASTD Press, 2010), The Consultant's Guide to Results-Driven Business Proposals (McGraw-Hill, 2010) and Beyond Learning Objectives: Develop Measurable Objectives that Link to the Bottom Line (ASTD Press, 2008). His distinctions include ASTD's highest award, Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Development, and MeetingNews named Phillips one of the 25 most influential people in the meetings and events industry, for three years in a row.
Q|What effect do you think the recession has had on accountability within organizations? What do you think are the possible implications of it?
One would hope that we've fared better in this recession than in previous recessions, but I'm afraid we didn't. The learning and development field has been drastically impacted in terms of curtailment of programs, reduction of staff, slashed budgets, and in drastic cases, entire functions have been eliminated.
Management teams need to be convinced that during a recession is the time that learning and development needs more investment. We have to do a complete turnaround.
We also need to take evaluation beyond measuring reaction and learning. Some learning departments are measuring application, (how you've applied what you learned). That still doesn't get the executives' attention. You have to raise it to the level of impact and business contribution.
Q| How can learning be linked with business strategy?
This is a critical question, and it really ties back to the recession. A learning function forced into a budget cut was perceived to be not closely linked to business strategy, and a learning function linked with business strategy was spared the cut.
Alignment occurs in three places. First, new projects and programs should be aligned to the business from the start. Ensuring (via a front-end analysis) that the program is connected to a business measure is critical.
The second phase is developing business impact objectives for a learning program. Objectives must move beyond learning and include application and impact. Impact objectives convert your learning to business measures such as productivity, sales, quality, customer satisfaction, and job satisfaction.
The third phase is tracking business measures connected to your program and monitoring changes. If changes have occurred, we take another important step, which is to isolate the effect of our program on the business data. We want to make sure that we know what we've contributed in our particular learning program. This is critical and is the ultimate validation of alignment.
The process isn't that difficult. It's just connecting projects and programs to the business contribution in the beginning, throughout the project, and following up to make sure the results are actually achieved.
Q| What is one change you'd like to see in the field of measurement and evaluation within the next decade?
In terms of the learning and development profession, I wish we could remove the fear of measurement and evaluation. Our greatest barrier to having people use evaluation and push it into impact and ROI is that they are afraid of the results. This fear comes from the perception that if something doesn't add value, it reflects unfavorably on them, the program, their department, or the function. So they prefer not to know.
We have to approach evaluation with process improvement in mind. We must have a mindset change from learning and development leaders. We must be bold enough to say we're going to show the value of what we do, and if it's not working, we're going to fix it. If we develop that attitude, it will make measurement and evaluation routine and welcome.
Q| Are you currently working on any new books or projects?
Patti and I have a book coming out called The Green Scorecard: Measuring the Return on Investments in Sustainability Initiatives. It's our application of this methodology to the environmental programs.
We also have a book on the way called Measuring ROI in Healthcare. There's so much pressure for providers in the healthcare industry to be efficient and provide great patient care under new rules and regulations.
We're alsoworking on a book on measuring ROI in innovation. As more companies pursue innovation, they want to understand the payoff.
One of our challenges in the last decade has been to move measurement and evaluation to other fields and professions. Currently, 22 other professional fields use this methodology.